Google Cloud’s extended outage was a big headache for small stores

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A Google Cloud outage left Shopify stores out of action.
A Google Cloud outage left Shopify stores out of action.
Image: Getty Images/EyeEm

A significant outage on Sunday caused a host of online services to go down, including Snapchat, YouTube, and Gmail.

The Google Cloud outage also caused problems with Shopify, an e-commerce and point-of-sale platform which powers thousands of online and physical stores around the world. 

While the Google Cloud and Shopify outages were largely resolved by Sunday evening, the extended downtime also left some businesses in disarray, leaving orders unfulfilled, and crucially, missed sales.

Mackenzie Stith, who works for Pratt Daddy Crystals in Los Angeles, said the outage had “completely destroyed our day.”

“We probably lost out several thousands of dollars in sale the five or so hours it was down,” Stith told Mashable via email. 

“Not only that, we are having a summer sale right now so we have more orders than we ever have had in the history of the business at once that are not yet fulfilled. Around 500 orders currently not filled.”

Stith said she went into work on a Sunday to fulfil as many orders as possible, but the outage meant she couldn’t even tackle one. It’s left the business having to refund shipping on late orders, and Stith said she couldn’t even respond to emails, as the vast majority required Shopify to answer these queries.

Sarah Moret, who runs Curie, a Los Angeles-based natural deodorant company, had many of the same issues due to the outage.

“Sundays are normally one of our best sales days so it was frustrating to get to work and find that our site wouldn’t even load. The back-end of our site being down made it so we couldn’t fulfill any orders, see customer information, or respond to customer support tickets,” Moret explained via Twitter DM.

The website for Rhode Island-based jewellery brand Luca + Danni was also out of action for more than five hours.

“We lost significant revenue during the important graduation season,” Luca + Danni’s president, David Oksman, told Mashable via email. 

The outage also meant that Oksman risked wasting money on ads while the brand’s website was down, which would lead prospective customers to a dead end. He was also concerned that pausing the ad could risk its future performance.

With some businesses significantly out-of-pocket, Shopify’s outage prompted questions about how it would avoid future, extended outages like Sunday’s, and if it had a backup plan. 

“I think Shopify relying solely on one provider without a failover process to quickly re-route their traffic through other data centers is likely poor planning on their DevOps team,” Dennis Hegstad, co-founder at e-commerce startup LiveRecover, told Mashable.

“When they have 550,000 stores relying on their CMS, they need to do better than seven hours of downtime.”

The extended outage also left some people wondering if there are too few companies who have control of the cloud and e-commerce market.

“It’s really challenging as a young brand to go through uncontrollable issues such as this,” Oksman added. 

“You understand that people are doing everything they can to avoid the issues but it points to a potential weakness in the overall web’s infrastructure when so few organizations (Google, Amazon, etc) control such a large percentage of websites.”

For Hegsted, it’s just a matter of preparedness. “It does seem like a larger issue to have a few companies control the majority of the market but realistically it could be avoided by just better planning,” he said.

“Be prepared for the worst. There is likely always a solution to avoid disasters like this.”

“Be prepared for the worst. There is likely always a solution to avoid disasters like this.”

In a statement to Mashable, Shopify said, “On June 2, Shopify experienced an interruption of service by Google Cloud that made all stores inaccessible. We worked with them to resolve the issue and stores are now accessible.”

On its Status page, Shopify said it “will be working to fully understand how this widespread Internet infrastructure failure affected our platform” in the coming days. 

For those who run a Shopify-powered store that we spoke to for this story, the outage hasn’t discouraged them from using the platform. In fact, all say it’s worked well for them until Sunday. If anything, store owners wished Shopify had been more communicative.

“It was frustrating, and I wish there had been more proactive communication from Shopify,” Moret said. 

“They have our contact information — I wish they would have notified store owners of the outage immediately and explained what the issue was so we could be proactive about it.”

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Author:Johnny Lieu

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